Vongni Yang, The Union Democrat

When the Summerville Bears varsity volleyball head coaching position opened in the spring, it was a no-brainer for Jennifer Osterhout to throw her name into the pool of candidates.

Osterhout was a highly qualified coach, and already had head coaching experience at the junior college level.

So in May, the 32-year-old applied for the position, and was hired later that month to direct the Bears program.

"She's doing a fabulous job," said Summerville Athletic Director Debbie Mager. "The girls are just excited. She's working them hard, but they're excited about the upcoming season. I feel like we are very blessed to be able to put that volleyball position attached to a full-time teaching position. We're all very excited about it. We had other people apply, but she came in as a real broad experienced-based, not only for coaching, but for teaching."

After graduating from Sonora High School in 2000, where she was a three-year varsity Wildcat volleyball standout, Osterhout attended Columbia College where she also starred for the Claim Jumpers.

She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Kinesiology in 2006 from Humboldt State and received her teaching credential a year later.

The Sonora native moved back home in 2007 and caught on as an assistant under then-Columbia College head volleyball coach Raelene Juarez while simultaneously working on a Master's Degree at Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock.

"It was a lot of driving," Osterhout said. "You got tired of that drive pretty quick. I went two days a week, and got it hammered out."

In 2010, Osterhout was put in charge of the Columbia College Claim Jumpers volleyball program as an adjunct/part-time employee. She also taught physical education classes on top of her coaching duties.

To make ends meet financially, Osterhout worked nearly full time for herfather, Jim Weller, as an office manager and accountant at Weller Construction in Sonora.

In Osterhout's last year at the helm in 2013, Columbia went 10-13 overall and finished sixth in Central Valley Conference play with a 4-10 record.

Because Osterhout wasn't sure if her Columbia gig would ever evolve into a full-time position, she felt the Summerville job would be a better fit for her family.

"I've been basically working 50 to 60 hours a week for five years," Osterhout said. "It was really hard and it didn't seem like there was a full-time position coming at Columbia anytime soon. I was just ready. I was just ready to spend more time with my family and not travel so far for the college. It just opened up and I felt I should give it a shot, and it all worked out, which was amazing.

"I loved being at the college, but family wise, it was a no-brainer to take the high school position because it gave me more time at home. I won't be coming home at 1 in the morning, and not see my family all day. So, it's going to be good. I live in Soulsbyville, so I'm right down the road from the high school. I think, especially, where my family is at right now, being so young, this is a perfect fit."

Although, Osterhout was able to secure a full-time position, it was still a tough decision for her to officially leave the Columbia program after seven years.

"There's five returning players that are just like my own kids," Osterhout said. "I felt guilty leaving them and leaving the program. I just got the program to where I was happy and comfortable, and it was going really well. It was just not working out with being part-time. I was definitely torn, but it was a very bittersweet situation that happened."

Osterhout will teach at Mountain High School in Pinecrest, which is under the umbrella of the Summerville Union High School District.

"I'm so excited," Osterhout said. "The teaching side of the job will be new to me. A lot of research and learning for that part of the position, but for the volleyball side, I get to put so much thought and energy into this one program, and it's exciting."

Osterhout inherits a young and inexperienced Summerville team this season.

In 2013, the Bears, led by San Jose State signee Breann Robinson and a strong corps of seniors, went 15-7-1 overall, including a tie for second-place finish in the Mother Lode League. Six players from that playoff team graduated this summer.

But with 22 girls trying out for the Bears squad in 2014, Osterhout has plenty of talent to help her solidify a 14-player roster.

Summerville begins official practiceson Monday at 1 p.m.in Tuolumne.

"My goal for this year is to try to get in playoffs, period, to try to get a playoff seed," Osterhout said. "I think that would be an attainable first-year goal. I know we have some strong players, and I think we can do it. I think that would be a good starting point and go from there."